Trump needs North Carolina to win the electoral college as much as he needs Florida, and everyone on both sides knows it.
President Donald Trump is fighting to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, howling with unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud and warning that violent mobs are infiltrating the suburbs.
But on a recent morning along Arbor Street, a peaceful tree-lined road with stately brick Colonials and Tudors near Winston-Salem, the women who are the targets of Trump’s messages were confronting much more tangible threats.
As conservative activists canvassed the neighborhood, one young mother, a baby in her arms, shouted through a closed window that she was in quarantine. Across the street, another was focused on teaching her children their daily lessons at the kitchen table.
And a few doors down, 49-year-old Christina Donnell, an independent who voted for Trump four years ago, said through a black face mask that Trump’s “terrible” handling of the pandemic and divisive leadership more broadly are her chief concerns.
“It’s embarrassing to the country,” Donnell, a lawyer who previously lived in Washington, said of Trump’s leadership. “He’s an embarrassing role model.”
In one of the nation’s most consequential swing states, Trump’s push to inject new dynamics into the final weeks of the 2020 election is being overshadowed by the frightening realities of everyday life during a pandemic. Trump and his allies hope the escalating Supreme Court nomination fight will help unify a fractured Republican Party that has lost its grip on college-educated suburban voters, particularly white women.
But for many, the coronavirus and the related economic challenges are much more pressing issues.
Trump’s challenge is acute here in North Carolina, a state that his senior aides describe as a “must-win.” A loss in the state, which Democrats have carried only once at the presidential level in the last 30 years, would make Trump’s path to a second term incredibly difficult and signal dire challenges elsewhere on the electoral map.
Public polling, backed by private discussions with strategists from both Trump’s and Democrat Joe Biden’s campaigns, indicate that North Carolina remains a true tossup five weeks before Election Day. And lest there be any doubt about Trump’s concerns about his standing here, he has traveled to North Carolina every week for the last five weeks, second only to Pennsylvania.
Trump’s standing will also help decide races for governor and senator, a set of competitive contests that has drawn more political advertising dollars to North Carolina than any other state in the nation. More than $246 million has been spent or reserved to communicate with North Carolina voters online and on television about the presidential and Senate contests so far, according to the media tracking firm Kantar-CMAG. Florida follows with $236 million and then Arizona with $223 million.
Trump has also dispatched Vice President Mike Pence to North Carolina twice over the last five weeks in addition to four visits by Trump’s children.
The president’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, a North Carolina native, led a Women for Trump event in the rural eastern part of the state last week to help energize the president’s base. She was scheduled to visit again on Monday.
“This is a must-win state for whoever is to become the next president,” Lara Trump said in an interview.
She's wrong. Biden doesn't have to win North Carolina. He can win with PA, MI, and WI. He doesn't even have to win Florida or Arizona and could even afford to lose Nevada or New Hampshire as long as he wins those three states.
But Trump has to win NC, Florida, Arizona and one of those three rust belt states. He has no other choices. He's now down double digits in Minnesota and Nevada is only worth 6 EVs (and it's close to a double digit lead there for Biden too.)
And this is all before the tax cheat story broke over the weekend.